How To Make an Art

So I saw some art this weekend....a show or two in Chelsea and then a show at the Kutztown University art gallery, two very, very different settings! I don't know how familiar people are with the Chelsea art gallery scene but exhibition spaces of all sizes are tucked into buildings (brownstones next to car garages, skyscrapers hacked into white walled spaces, converted industrial buildings etc.) offering up art for sale to collectors, museums and institutions looking to acquire a piece of the cultural landscape. It is a weird place in that it is a place putting a price on creativity but also in that it is putting a value on what ideas (or lack of ideas) are important in our society. Chelsea is also one of the few places artists can make a living. All of these reasons make seeing art there precarious: you get to see a combination of the birth of new ideas, and valued old ideas, but the commodity aspect of it looms in a weird way sometimes overshadowing message and meaning in favor of a party or spectacle in order to draw in attention, attention that is a necesary evil for a lot of artists survival.  The few supposed ideas I saw in Chelsea this time around were not very good so I won't get into them...but I will say that ideas need to be valued a little more in this place, especially when considering the price, the cultural legacy and the potential movements that places like Chelsea can potentially be the nexus of.

The Marlin and Regina Miller Gallery of Kutztown University (in the hometown of the legendary graffiti artist Keith Haring) , just up the road in our Pennsylvania area, was offering up a show that was almost the opposite of the Chelsea scene. The senior student December show was up so, instead of seeing art up for sale, we saw art by people who are paying to make work in an academic setting. This show cobbled together class projects, individual pieces and a range of skill making it an odd thing to see... I wish I could talk to each student to understand what lies beyond graduation, what they want out of these things they are making, what ideas they want to offer, uphold and explore in society as an extension of art history/history, or if a lot of them are just crossing their fingers to get a nice graphic design internship somewhere...? I am sure people are asking young artists these types of things and, after seeing what is going on in Chelsea, I hope they are really considering their answers!

While at Kutztown I saw these great bulky, wooden, box-like canvases, with stark white, black and pink paintings of cartoonish, banal scenes like defrosting meat and a boring bathroom. The color was applied thickly making you feel the chalky-ness of the bathroom tile on your skin and an etched out ricketyness of the lines & grain in the wood created an uneasy edge, both elements making for a cold textured field of eerie modern life. I thought they were a great mix of folk art, sculpture, a kind of graphic novel/design aesthetic and I hope the artist, Darren Beck (work pictured here),  gets to bigger and better ideas with his already interesting style! I also hope that those being funneled from art school into the gallery world, those paying to be creative and in turn being paid to be creative, are really looking at why they are creating stuff and at the messages they want to send as American artists, if artists are inserting truth into their work than maybe the galleries can too!



Donna K. is a recent transplant to the Midwest where she can be found exploring culture at large through film programming, writing and her general interest in the world- both on and offline.